August 20, 2014

Make marketing systematic through automation

Did you ever hear this punch line?

“I know half the money I spend on marketing is wasted, I just don’t know which half!”

The joke was credited to retailer and merchandising genius John Wanamaker in the early 1900s. Fast forward to today and Wanamaker would be pretty solid on how to gauge his promotional expenditures. How? Big news here: Technology meets marketing, and marketing has become a science. Wanamaker would be a lot closer to 100 percent on his assessment of his advertising expenditure, with the help of specialized marketing software and loads more information about prospects.

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With marketing automation, it starts with a John Doe and ends with a John We Know.

Take an anonymous prospect and put that person through your marketing mill, otherwise known as a “marketing automation system.” Here are some of the processes that can track the person from stranger to loyal purchaser: Lead generation, lead grading, lead nurturing, lead conversion and customer loyalty.

From the time the prospect’s contact information is entered into the database, the marketing automation system can begin to help you classify the likelihood of conversion (or turning your lead into a buyer.)

To begin with, there’s an email component. You can find out which leads read which short articles, which ones repeatedly read your news snippets and which ask to unsubscribe or never even open your mail.

Then there are other types of content that can be appealing to your potential customers, such as webinars, white papers, podcasts, press releases and invitations to your special events. Each time you provide a segment of your database with something of interest, you can see which of those targeted became curious or even captivated.

Marketing automation is a way of keeping your bait all in one tackle box, and then finding out which fish bite. There’s a lot of analysis that comes with the comprehensive software. You can determine which messages are most effective and which media are most efficient. Then do more of that.

How come this wasn’t possible before? Until the Internet, advertising was the primary way to reach a target audience. The advertiser did not own a big list. He or she piggybacked on the audience that NBC and Newsweek, for example, created. Now the marketer has the ability to go right to the prospect and deliver a custom message that is proved to resonate and likely result in sales. That’s powerful stuff.

Can a small business get so systematic? Sure, without even using a full marketing automation system such as HubSpot or Marketo, a mom-and-pop shop can apply science to their select marketing efforts and watch them grow.

For a fraction of what you’d pay to be on the big marketing automation systems (Marketo starts at $800 a month; HubSpot at $200 a month) you can use Mail Chimp (free!) or Constant Contact to send out an e-newsletter, keep records of the responses, review your website metrics to see which efforts brought the most people back to the site, and continue the cycle diligently. It’s a start!

Here are some telling statistics on the return on investment of marketing automation: 107 percent better lead conversion rate, 40 percent greater average deal size, 20 percent higher team attainment of quota and 17 percent better forecast accuracy. (Source: 

Aberdeen Group, “Marketing Automation 101: Ensuring Early Success with the Basics; Maturing Your Deployment for long-term ROI.” June 2010)

What the marketing automation systems do is connect all the dots – all the way through into Salesforce.com, if you like. This is where sales sees the graded leads and follows up on the hot ones. A small business can connect the dots for itself. And when they learn what is involved in taking a lead from awareness, to interest, to desire, and finally to action (or as Joel Comm puts it: “Know Me, Like Me, Trust Me, Pay Me”) and they experience some success, the investment in a comprehensive, all-in-one-place system could be the logical next step. 

To sum up, marrying marketing with software technology eliminates guesswork from the marketers’ budget and builds a direct, customized relationship with potential and actual customers.  

Laurie Macomber, owner of Fort Collins-based Blue Skies Marketing, can be reached at 970-689-3000.

Did you ever hear this punch line?

“I know half the money I spend on marketing is wasted, I just don’t know which half!”

The joke was credited to retailer and merchandising genius John Wanamaker in the early 1900s. Fast forward to today and Wanamaker would be pretty solid on how to gauge his promotional expenditures. How? Big news here: Technology meets marketing, and marketing has become a science. Wanamaker would be a lot closer to 100 percent on his assessment of his advertising expenditure, with the help of specialized marketing software and loads more information…

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